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Rigidity of General Terms - a case for essential properties?

30. Juni 2011 von Robert Frühstückl

In this paper I am primarily concerned with general terms and their extension. With regard to the title of the conference, the overall issue I want to discuss will be the boundaries of concepts. Kripke's thesis of the rigidity of general terms for natural kinds posed a variety of problems. Whereas he says a lot about the definition of rigidity for proper names, corresponding arguments for the application to natural-kind-terms are not given. As a consequence, the definition of a rigid designator, as an expression which refers to one particular object in every possible world, is not fully intelligible in the case of natural-kind-terms. There are two main strategies for extending the notion of rigidity from proper names to general terms, which are both discussed in the literature. The first is to give a definition of a rigid general term as having the same extension in every possible world, (in which it is not empty). The other would be to define rigidity as reference to an essential property of the kind, designated by the term. Of course, as the discussion went on, more sophisticated approaches have become available, but I think it is helpful to keep these main alternatives in mind before going into detail, since both seem to present an intuitive way of extending Kripke's remarks on proper names to general terms. (In Naming and Necessity there is textual support for both views.) In this paper I want to begin by taking a brief look at the still ongoing discussion on the correct interpretation of Kripke's thesis and explore some accounts in detail, in order to provide an adequate background. I will then concentrate on the second option, i.e. views of rigid general terms, which take their referent to be an essential property of the kind, designated by the term, and its challenges. I will try to argue, that it is hard to avoid talk of essential properties while applying the concept of rigidity to general terms.

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